Reestablishing the origins story of the superhero is inevitable, and sometimes its necessary. For one thing it gives us a fresh new look at the character who will become the hero we need. And at times, the origins story can come too soon, way too soon. Which is what’s happening with the new origins story in The Amazing Spider-Man. Fact of the matter is, director Marc Webb just gives us a glossy new origins story that doesn’t give us anything too really gush over. But thankfully some convincing performances and shiny visuals makes the film dazzle.
Andrew Garfield now takes the mantle of Spider-Man/Peter Parker after Tobey Maguire held on it for three films. But rather than reestablish some familiar situations, Marc Webb decided to make a few changes. First he put more emphasis on the relationships between Parker and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Having already directed (500) Days of Summer, the director is very knowledgeable in piecing together a film about thriving and conflicting relationships. He also changed some of the mechanics of Spider-Man by giving him a new suit, new equipment, and a new attitude.
Our story begins with a younger Parker walking into freshly broken into den. With research notes sprawled allover the place as if someone was looking for something. This forces his father and mother to place Parker in the care of his beloved Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Flash forward years later and we come to find out Peter is one of the the smartest kid at Midtown High School – second only to Gwen Stacy – with a eye for photography.
After becoming a symbol of bullying, Peter comes home, down and defeated. But he takes comfort in knowing that his beloved Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) are always there to support him. While cleaning up the basement, Peter comes across a mysterious briefcase owned by his father, and upon further investigation he learns that his father and a Dr. Curt Conners had a working relationship. Long story short, Peter helps fill the gaps in a formula that his father and Dr. Conners had been working on for so long. Though its in its testing phase Conners is pushed to the brink and is forced to test the formula on himself before the OsCorp big wigs can testing on unwilling patients. This leads up to Conners becoming the Lizard and the reptilian DNA taking over his mind.
Garfield has an excellent grasp of a more contemporary Peter Parker. Unlike Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie, The Amazing Spider-Man is set in high school. And instead of making this Parker a thin, high school social pariah, Webb made him someone who can stand-up to the bullies. He is also fairly attractive gaining the attention of Stacy through acts of powerless heroism.
While it may seem that The Amazing Spider-Man was an unnecessary reboot, the film does bring a few new things that we’ve never seen before. Sure we’ve seen Parker at his most vulnerable moments. Losing your loved ones and being picked on comes with the territory, but this Peter has a magnetic charm. Webb also gives us a more believable reaction when Peter learns that he has Spider powers.
Stone also provides a strong performance as the new love interest, Gwen Stacy. She too possesses a magnetic charm that is hard to resist. With brains and beauty Stone is able to ensnare you with just a simple look. She is also able to trade off witty banter with ease and her chemistry with everyone in the film is fantastic and fun to watch on screen. And unlike Mary Jane Watson in Raimi’s version, Gwen doesn’t play the damsel-in-distress, instead she plays as a second fiddle to Spider-Man on more than one occasion.
Visually Spider-Man slinging through the streets of New York is a fun thrill ride and can be taken over and over again. Webb brought out the characteristics of Spider-Man that was clearly lacking in all of Raimi’s films. He’s a smart-ass, he can banter, he has webshooters, and he can web sling. Unlike Raimi who used CGI for Spider-Man’s web swinging sequences, Webb chose to go with a more grounded approach, by having stunt performers swing with style and grace from point a to point b.
However the POV shots of the film, felt extremely choppy and severally lacked fluidity. Whatever happened to that amazing (pun necessary) seamless POV trailer that we saw in the first trailer? Well wherever it went, someone sure felt that it wasn’t necessary, and decided to put in something at had no flare. Webb should have done away with the less-than-stellar pov sequences and went with the full body shot webslinging.
It is an origins story, so its not to hard to guess how Parker got his powers. But there are also other issues with the film as well. Dr. Conners is trying to prove himself to OsCorp’s board of directors so he tests a dangerous formula on himself and becomes a villain set out to prove that he was right, sound familiar? Spider-Man uses his newfound powers recklessly and without abandon, sound familiar? Peter Parker/Spider-Man feels that he has a responsibility to protect the ones he loves, at the cost of his own happiness, sound familiar? So there is an awful lot of territory that has already been covered that makes The Amazing Spider-Man feel like Webb put a slight twist on Raimi’s version instead of telling the “untold story.”
So while we understand why Peter becomes Spider-Man, the flip side is that Conners’ villainous motivations doesn’t seem to have any rationale. Its unclear how or why he wants to take his failures at the office out on the people of New York – as if they had anything to do it. With the Green Goblin we see why he wanted to exact his revenge on OsCorp as they were the force that drove him out of his own company. He even states that he wants to rule the world. But Conners is just hellbent on making everyone suffer with no explanation as to why he wants to commit this crime.
While the two have their similarities, the one thing that undisputedly distinguishes Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man from Raimi’s Spider-Man is the fact that The Amazing Spider-Man is a love story. There is more emphasis on the relationship shared between Peter and Gwen, than any other relationship in the movie, so much so that hardly ever get to see Field express any enlightening words of wisdom. But when she does speak, her words are worth their weight in gold. So while Webb doesn’t have the knowledge of how to handle a villain’s motivation, supporting character screen time, or give characters a proper adieu, he does, however, have a clear understanding of how to create a love story.
Visually the film is more impressive than that of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films. The technology has improved by leaps and bounds, and thus it created a Spider-Man that feels more authentic and less like a video game character. The action sequences were a lot of fun to watch and it literally puts you on the edge of your seat. However, the 3D hardly has a presence in the film, but the times when 3D was used, it gave the film pop. Also, those nasty problems about darkness and 3D are no where to be seen.
When Garfield becomes Spider-Man, and he does his Spider-Man signature things, it can make the film feel like a live-action Saturday morning cartoon. The relationships and dark tones in the film gives it a more mature feel that gives the film more depth. And it isn’t as entirely as bad as I make it out to be, partially because I am willing to look past some of the glaring flaws that the film has and mostly because I am a fan of Spider-Man. But above all, if you can also ignore the fact that this origins story that takes place years after the first origins story, then The Amazing Spider-Man is an exhilarating reimagined thrill ride.